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Thursday, 23 October 2014

Who says gas bills are rising?

A stunning letter from energy supplier SSE:

Although we've been in our new house for four months, it's taken that long for our new energy supplier, Good Energy, to take over the supply of gas and electricity from SSE, who were handling things when we moved in. In fact it had taken so long that we'd had interim bills from SSE, and duly paid them of course. As they'd estimated our usage, we received a refund for the electricity, but with the gas I reckoned we would end up owing them money at the end. And so we did: one whole penny.

It doesn't take much of a brain to work out that SSE will be costing themselves dozens of times this amount just by mailing to tell me. When I ring up their 0800 number to make the payment, that will cost them some more, and their bank will no doubt charge them a bit more for the privilege of receiving my penny. The blindingly obvious decision should be to write off final bills that are less than the cost of collecting them. So what's gone wrong?

Well, looking at the three pages of colour printout that allegedly "explain my bill in detail", I think the blame lies with those fiends incarnate, the computer programmers.

A couple of months ago the bill we received estimated a usage of £91.64. But now, the bill for that period has been revised to £57.31, with an additional bill from then to the date of termination of £34.34. Total: £91.65! But our final meter reading was eight units more than their estimate in August, and eight units surely cost more than £0.01, so I'm guessing that their billing software spotted that it wasn't worth sorting things out, and fudged the revised bill so that the final total would equal the amount we'd already paid. Alas, some rounding error has left them still short of that extremely expensive penny.

If I'm right, I should have received a final bill of £0.00. Still costly to tell me about, but they would at least have been saved the phone bill and the bank charge. No wonder they offer £46 a year off if you go paperless.

It says "If you'd like to discuss your payment options, please give us a call." Oh, I'm really tempted, but all my previous attempts to talk to a human being on their 0800 number have just resulted in my left ear getting very hot from having a phone jammed into it for 15 minutes. To add insult to injury, their muzak is exceptionally annoying even by muzak standards, and it's interrupted every thirty seconds by a voice telling me that I'm going to get connected real soon.

Now, I just need to remember to actually pay the bill.